Tag: South Asia Times

Australian Govt invests taxpayers money in Adani’s Carmichael coal project: Stop Adani


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 16 December 2020: The ‘Stop Adani’ environment organization has alleged: “Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund, is investing taxpayer money in an Adani Group company that is funding critical aspects of the controversial Carmichael Coal Project and holds business ties to the Myanmar military”.

In a statement emailed today to South Asia Times (SAT), Stop Adani says, ” Rohingya community, human rights, and environmental groups are calling on the Future Fund to divest its equity holdings from Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone, because of critical environmental, social and corporate governance failings of the company in Myanmar and Australia.

In January 2019 Adani Ports entered into a commercial relationship with Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), a Myanmar military holding company, to build an international port in Yangon on military-owned land.

Adani Ports entered into a lease with MEC for 50 years for an investment of USD $290 million for the construction of Ahlone International Port Terminal 2. The Myanmar military owns four commercial ports in Yangon that are currently operational. The first phase of Adani’s port is scheduled for completion in 2021.”

Photo- Stop Adani, Twitter

Pablo Brait, a campaigner with Market Forces said: “The Future Fund should be investing in the companies building our future, not those that are destroying it. Adani Ports’ role in the Carmichael coal project – a project that will fuel the climate crisis and the extreme weather that it is causing – shows it is a terrible investment for the Future Fund to be making with our money. It is clear that Adani Ports has a very concerning environmental, social, and governance risk profile beyond its role in climate-wrecking coal.

The media statement says:

“Adani Ports’ business with the Myanmar military, in disregard of human rights, follows its recently revealed direct role in the Carmichael coal project in Australia, which is a major threat to the environment and Traditional Owners of the land, the Wangan and Jagalingou people. Adani Ports has recently established the subsidiary Bowen Rail Company to transport coal from the Carmichael mine.

The groups submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Future Fund, to disclose any holdings it has in Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd. The Future Fund disclosed AUD$3.2 million in equity holdings, invested despite the company’s widely known and heavily criticized environmental and human rights record.

In August 2019 UN Human Rights Council’s Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar warned that companies involved with the MEC risked being complicit in funding the financial operations of the Myanmar military and urged companies to sever ties.”

Mohammad Junaid from the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia says, “It is shocking to the Rohingya people that Australia’s Future Fund has invested in a company that is doing business with the Myanmar military. The UN has condemned foreign companies profiting at our expense.”

Member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Australian lawyer, Chris Sidoti said: “Adani is in bed with the Myanmar military and now it seems the Future Fund is in bed with Adani.

“Australia’s sovereign wealth fund should follow the lead of similar funds in other countries and of increasing numbers of pension funds, moving towards disinvesting from companies in league with Myanmar’s murderous military.

Rawan Arraf, Director of the Australian Centre for International Justice said: “Despite United Nations condemnation of Adani Ports’ business ties with the Myanmar military, the Australian government is investing in Adani Ports. The Future Fund is at risk of contributing taxpayer money to the financing of Myanmar military activities through its investment in Adani Ports.”

Meanwhile, “In October 2020 it was announced that global shipping giant, Maersk, will end its use of the military-owned ports in Myanmar, leaving Adani Ports, currently constructing a new military-owned port in Yangon, in serious commercial trouble, as shipping companies are under increasing pressure to end business with Myanmar’s military-owned ports. Adani Ports SEZ has been taking on debt from international banks including US, UK, Germany and Japan to finance projects including in Myanmar.”

India: Interfaith couples suffer amid a growing religious divide


A jewelry advertisement in India showing a Hindu woman married into a Muslim family led to a fierce backlash from right-wing groups. But what is it like for a real interfaith couple amid rising intolerance?

Sadaf has not had a proper conversation with her father for about three years now. He just wouldn’t talk to her. That is the price she had to pay for choosing to marry a non-Muslim. The New Delhi-based lawyer still visits her parents’ home in the northern Indian city of Lucknow, in the hope that her father will eventually come around and accept her Hindu husband.

Interfaith marriages are often contentious in Indian society, especially when it involves a Hindu and a Muslim. This was recently seen when a jewelry advertisement featuring an interfaith couple sparked an outrage so intense that the brand, owned by one of the largest conglomerates in India, withdrew the ad.

The jewelry brand said in a statement that its decision to take down the ad was made “keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and the well-being of our employees, partners, and store staff.”

The controversy — not the first of its kind — once again brought into question the tolerance and acceptability of interfaith marriages in a country where religious tensions have been on the rise in recent years.

Women face the brunt of the backlash

Sadaf married her colleague and fellow lawyer, Yatin, in February 2018. But the months preceding their wedding weren’t easy for either of them.

“It was particularly difficult from my side,” Sadaf said. “It’s always more difficult for the woman’s family to come around,” she said.

Marriages in India’s patriarchal system see women as being “given away” by their families. “Most families are reluctant to ‘give away’ their daughter into a faith they do not understand,” Sadaf told DW.

While this wasn’t something Yatin had to worry about, he faced challenges of his own. “My family went into absolute shock when I first told them about Sadaf,” he said.

“In fact, my mother had casually told me sometime earlier that they would accept whomever I wanted to marry, except a Muslim,” Yatin said.

After several months of persuasion, his family finally agreed. But he admits that in interfaith marriages, the brunt of the backlash is often faced by women.

“If it were my sister who wanted to get married to a Muslim guy, I don’t think my parents would have agreed to it,” he said. “The woman’s side often gets very aggressive too.”

Fortunately for Sadaf, the reaction from her community was limited to a social boycott.

Only her mother, who was quite supportive from the start, and her brother attended the wedding. Sadaf’s father refused to be part of the ceremony.

Read more: Javed Akhtar on communal tensions: ‘Indian Muslims also have to criticize themselves’

‘Love jihad’

Unlike many inter-religious couples in India, Sadaf and Yatin had a lot going for them. They both came from educated families that were not prone to violence, lived in urban centers, and were financially independent. But most importantly, Yatin was a Hindu.

“Had Yatin been a Muslim, and I a Hindu, our marriage would have been called ‘love jihad,’” Sadaf said.

Source- dw.com


South Asian migrants accuse Croatian police of brutal beatings at border


By Arafatul Aslam

South Asian migrants stuck in Bosnian camps have accused Croatian police of badly beating people caught trying to cross the border into the EU. Human rights groups are calling for an investigation of the abuse allegations.

Solaiman is a 20-year-old Bangladeshi migrant and one of nearly 600 South Asian asylum-seekers who are camped out in a hilly forest in the western Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa, just a few kilometers away from the border with Croatia.

They are spending nights in crowded shacks made from tarps, and they lack sufficient food, water and medical supplies. But more than cold or hunger, they fear what may happen when they attempt to cross the European Union border into Croatia.

“Croatian police split us into groups of five people after we crossed the border. They forced us to lie down and beat us mercilessly before forcing us back to Bosnia,” Solaiman told DW just an hour after an alleged incident that took place on October 19.

He was bleeding from an injury on the right side of his forehead, his lip was split, and there were bruises all over his body.

“There were 21 Bangladeshis and seven Afghan refugees in the group. They beat all of us, and some had their hands and legs broken by the torture,” Solaiman said.

Solaiman claimed the police officers who tortured them were wearing black uniforms and ski masks. Other migrants and refugees living at the camp told DW that the Croatian police in black uniforms are notorious for brutality. The migrants accuse the police of beating and robbing people who try to cross the border illegally.

“They take our bags, mobile phones, money and even our clothes. After that, they beat us and force us back in our underwear,” Mohammad Yasin, another Bangladeshi asylum-seeker, told DW.

Bosnia has become a bottleneck for thousands of Europe-bound migrants after other nations closed their borders and disrupted migration paths through the Balkans.

Upon entering Bosnia, most migrants walk northwest to the country’s highly porous 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) border with Croatia, one of the last gateways to northern Europe.

Border town Velika Kladusa is a migrant hotspot where around 1,500 people, most of them from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, have been staying, their future uncertain.

Overworked NGO treats injured migrants

At the nearby Miral camp, run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), hospital beds are provided only to severely injured migrants; others are provided with pain medicine. The camp also houses refugees who cannot live without support.

Hundreds of people camp in the woods near the Croatian border

There are about 700 migrants living at the overcrowded Miral camp. Half of them are from Pakistan, around 30% from Bangladesh, and the others from Afghanistan, Morocco, and Tunisia.

The rest of the migrants live without medical aid in the forest camp, or in an abandoned factory.

“Croatian police broke both my legs by beating me mercilessly. It happened last night when I was trying to cross the Bosnia-Croatia border,” Muhammad Waqas, a 27-year-old refugee from Pakistan, told DW at the Miral camp. He had been rescued by Bosnian police and taken for treatment to Miral.

“They intentionally aim for bones and faces using black batons. They don’t listen, or ask anything, before starting to beat us,” he said.

Mite Cilkovski, the manager of the Miral camp, said it often receives injured migrants who were beaten at the border, many of whom will take months to heal.

“They say that the injuries were caused by the Croatian police. We report the issue to relevant institutions and organizations whenever we receive such injured people,” Cilkovski told DW.

Human rights groups ‘horrified’

Last week, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) recorded more than 75 incidents of violence at the Bosnia-Croatia border near Velika Kladusa. The humanitarian NGO said it has teams in the area to verify reports. Most of the victims come from Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“The testimonies that the DRC has collected from victims of pushbacks are horrifying,” DRC Secretary General Charlotte Slente told DW.

“People from different groups and nationalities have independently reported inhumane treatment, savage beatings and even sexual abuse at the border,” she said, emphasizing this has been taking place for months.

She said authorities needed to intervene. “There is an urgent need to ensure that independent border-monitoring mechanisms are in place to prevent these abuses and to ensure that all reports of abuse are transparently and credibly investigated — and those responsible are held to account,” she said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has repeatedly asked the European Commission to take action against member states like Croatia, accusing them of allowing unlawful abuse during violent pushbacks at EU borders.

“HRW has documented violent pushbacks from Croatia to Bosnia and Serbia for several years. These abuses have been going on unabated and are a frequent occurrence — not isolated events but rather a part of systemic practice by Croatian border officials,” Lydia Gall, a senior researcher on the western Balkans at HRW, told DW.

“EU law prohibits summary returns of migrants and any violence during such unlawful returns on all its external borders,” she added.

HRW’s Gall said there should be enough evidence of beatings to legally prove abusive asylum practices.

“The European Court of Human Rights has ruled on asylum and pushback-related cases in the past,” she said, adding that a lawsuit would be possible if lawyers could provide enough evidence of abuse.

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, has said that she is aware of the reports of police brutality at the Bosnia-Croatia border and was taking the matter very seriously.

“I am planning a thorough discussion with the Croatian authorities on these and other reports of fundamental rights violations,” she said on Twitter, adding she plans to discuss Croatia’s border-monitoring mechanism.

“Croatian authorities have committed to investigate reports of mistreatment at their external borders, monitor this situation closely and keep the Commission informed on progress made,” Johansson said.

However, HRW’s Gall said that EU should open infringement proceedings (legal action) against Croatia over its “blatant abuses of EU law ” to put pressure on Croatian authorities to “effectively investigate abuses on its border, including holding responsible officers to account.”

Croatia says it will investigate
Croatia’s Interior Ministry told DW it is investigating the abuse allegations and has not independently verified whether they occurred.

”Immediately after receiving these allegations, this ministry initiated relevant procedures to verify them,” the ministry said in a statement.

“It is our objective, and in our interest, to not only remove any suspicion of actions taken by Croatian police officers, but also to sanction and eliminate irregularities if, by chance, any have occurred.”

”Taking into consideration the severity of those accusations, we find it inappropriate to provide any response to those accusations until they have been thoroughly verified,” the ministry said.

Read more: EU migration policy: Eastern European leaders get tough on new plans

Many refugees fear that their situation could get worse as winter is approaching. Cilkovski, the manager of the Miral Camp, said there is not much more his organization can do.

“We can’t accommodate more than 700 people in the Miral Camp. Another camp is needed to accommodate others who are in the forest and surrounding areas now,” he said.

“But it’s not happening. If someone wants to return to their own country, IOM will arrange their flight free of cost.”

Source- dw.com


BUDGET 2020-21: “500 hours free English classes’ must in spouse & spouse visa sponsor requirements; changes to apply mid-2021

Budget pix

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 8 October 2020: The Federal Government seems determined to push its know English plans for new migrants as indicated in the Budget 2020 presented by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Many new migrants with a Permanent Residency who plan to get married soon or whose spouses are still overseas might well need to brush up their English skills to join their loved ones.

The new essential English requirements for those applying for the visa for their spouse and themselves will need about 500 hours of English language requirements before living permanently in Australia, Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has told the ABC radio on 6 October, reports the AAP.

The Minister feels these changes in the Budget2020 would help support social cohesion and economic participation, while better protecting vulnerable people from controlling or exploitative partners.

Associate Professor Marie Segrave, Deputy Director Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre, Faculty of Arts has refuted claims by Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge and the Prime Minister that without sufficient English language skills migrants are vulnerable to family violence, as untrue and unfair.

In a statement emailed by Medianet Marie Segrave says, “We know that temporary visa holders are disadvantaged by the migration system preventing and limiting access to support in the context of family violence and that this has been compounded by COVID-19 and their exclusion from Job Keeper and Job Seeker.

What we see in the Budget is the further exclusion of women via sponsor checks and language requirements. The potential damage of this is to continue to exclude many more women from support who are already married and/or have children with their abusive partner.

Instead of making changes to ensure access to the full suite of financial, housing, medical, and other support, these changes flag an effort to exclude women.”

In a statement Labor while slamming the changes says, “The Morrison Government’s Budget promise to increase the number of partner visas is just another empty announcement until they actually deliver for Australians and the people they love.

The Morrison Government has not explained how their new English language requirements for partner visa applicants and their permanent resident sponsors will impact applications – both those waiting to be processed and new applications.”

The Subcontinent Friends of Labor, Victoria (SCFOL) in a post on it’s Facebook page questions the proposed changes saying, “Subcontinent Friends of Labor Victoria (SCFOL Vic) is concerned to see the proposed English language requirement for partner visas by the federal government in #budget2020. How is this relevant to who Australian’s choose to marry? What does it say about our multicultural society? Who was consulted about this change? Why does the permanent resident sponsor need to undertake an English test for their partner’s visa?

Earlier, PM Scott Morrison told a virtual multicultural media conference on 7 Oct, ” English unifies the country and it enables us all to connect both economically and socially and so that’s why we believe that’s an important step that needs to be taken’.

Commenting about the changes Bina Shah of IAEC Education & Migration says, ” Clients are anxious. If a permanent resident marrying overseas looks for an English proficient spouse then things can go upside down. One will have to say no to a would-be spouse even if you want to marry him or her because of English.

Also, the 500 hours of free English teaching will take place where? If the intending spouse is overseas then will he or she have to attend private or stipulated classes and bear the massive costs? So, it looks, people will marry the person they love or want to and go in for English classes pushing up the cost of bringing your spouse here.”

“These issues need to be addressed before the new policy is introduced next year,” she says.

The AAP report says the changes will not be introduced until the next mid-next year and will only affect people who apply after the changes are introduced.

Mr. Tudge told the ABC there were almost one million people living in Australia with poor or no English and that language skills were necessary for finding work and staying safe.

He said, “And we want to encourage everybody to be able to learn English so that they can fully engage in Australian life, in every aspect of it, from employment markets to our democracy, to our society, to community activity.

English is absolutely essential in order to do all of that.”

In a media statement, Mr. Tudge says, ” Most partner visas are a provisional visa of two years before becoming eligible for a permanent visa. The requirement will have to be met at the time of the granting of the permanent visa.

While the ability to speak multiple languages is a great asset for an individual and for Australia, a person will struggle to fully participate in our society and democracy without basic English.”

(Story to be updated soon)

Indian matchmaking fraught with sexism, class and caste issues


Are all Indian weddings happy song-and-dance parties with friends and family? Not for most women, who need to tick a lot of boxes on the marriage checklist to qualify for the promise of eternal love.

In July this year, Netflix began streaming a documentary series called Indian Matchmaking. The show became very popular for its depiction of arranged marriages in India and among Indian expats in the US. For the uninitiated, arranged marriages are common practice in South Asian countries, where families decide who their children will marry. Indeed, as one character in the show sums it up, an Indian marriage is not just a union between two people, but “between two families.”

The documentary provides hilarious insights into all the contrivances that go into bringing a couple together, but young women like Nanki*, who spoke to DW, say the memes and jokes around the show serve as reminders of instances where women are deemed “unsuitable” for marriage in a society fraught with issues around caste, class, and gender-based discrimination.

Nanki was brought up to conform to an image of the ideal wife and daughter-in-law, a process that only diminished her self-worth. ”From a very young age, my parents told me that when I grow up, they would find a boy for me to get married to. I wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend till the age of 23,” she said.

A deal of sorts

The traditional Indian arranged marriage is essentially transactional. The ‘boy’ and ‘girl,’ as men and women are referred to in marriage parlance, are expected to tick certain boxes on a checklist – a set of requirements that are steeped in conventional gender roles. 

For example, the man is expected to be the primary provider for the family and must be financially secure. In other words, he should either have a well-paying corporate position, a ‘secure’ government job or a large inheritance to fall back on. The woman, on her part, must have traditional values, good cooking skills, good looks and a slim figure. Education matters, of course, but she shouldn’t be ‘too’ educated or perform better than her husband professionally.

Sukanya, who has been married for around two years now, says her weight was always a concern, especially since it affected her performance in the marriage market. “All my life, I’ve fluctuated between chubbiness and mild obesity. I was repeatedly told that I had several attractive qualities like intelligence, a pleasant and caring disposition, a great education, good hobbies and good family background – all except the appeal that comes with a slimmer physique,” she told DW.

“In the words of parents and well-wishers, once I lost a little weight, I would be an excellent prospect for any respectable family.”

For Nanki, the path to being a good match has been more difficult. Not only did she have to lose weight, she was also told to abstain from alcohol, stay away from other men, not dance too much and not speak too loudly. “And god forbid, if you smoke, you’re never getting married,” her family said.

It’s all about the lineage

A family’s position in the caste system is another issue that often comes up during marriage negotiations. Earlier, marriages within one’s caste were considered important to maintain the ‘purity of the bloodline,’ but today, many families argue that the bride and groom find it easier to adjust to life together if they choose partners from the same caste.

In fact, most communities prefer to filter prospective partners for their children based on caste before even looking at the candidates themselves. In other words, a woman and a man of the same religion cannot get married unless they are from the same social group.

For example, Nanki’s mother says that her daughter can marry any man from a warrior caste, like a Rajput, but not a man from the lower mercantile or baniya caste. Marrying a Muslim is out of the question.

For others however, social status plays a more important role than caste or religion. “I am a Punjabi Hindu but I married into a Jain family,” Sukanya explained. Jains are followers of the fifth century saint Mahavira and are a separate religion, albeit with similarities to Hinduism.

“My parents laid more emphasis on finding me a partner from a traditionally ‘cultured’ family, preferably with the same (or better) socio-economic status as themselves,” she told DW.

Love conquers all

Indians often take pride in the fact that the country has a divorce rate of less than 1% and are quick to attribute the low numbers to arranged marriages, which they say foster patience and the spirit of compromise. But fewer divorces also point out to the stigma attached to separating from one’s spouse, especially for women.

In Nanki’s words, “My parents often say compromise is very important for a marriage to work. Divorce isn’t something that is looked upon kindly in Indian society. ”

For many married couples, living in an unhappy marriage and accepting physical and mental abuse is a better option than being divorced. In fact, women are, in many cases, expected to accept abuse as a part of life.

“Once my father beat my mother and she left the house,” Saloni recalled. “I asked him, ‘If I get married and my husband beats me up, would you ask me to put up with it?’ He replied, ‘Of course. You are married to that person. You have to make it work…A man is a man, and a woman is a woman.”

Somebody to lean on

As times change, many young people are looking at arranged marriage as an alternative to dating. For them, the matchmaking process – of looking for love with the intention of getting married – helps them meet new people who have similar expectations from life. 

Sometimes, the ‘courtship period,’ during which a couple meets with their parents’ approval, lasts a year or two. As a result, the partners get to know each other well before tying the knot and marriages like Sukanya’s have been successful. 

Others, like Saloni, have crossed the age considered appropriate for an arranged marriage but are financially independent and willing to look for their own partners without any interference from their families. Her parents ‘ arranged marriage has left her wary of the institution and being single for so long is, for her, a small act of rebellion against the misogyny perpetuated by society.

However, this doesn’t mean she has lost her faith in love – she wants to get married one day, but on her own terms.

*All names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Source- dw.com